«5b. GRANT NUMBER Joint Doctrine for Unmanned Aircraft Systems: The Air Force and the Army Hold the Key to Success 5c. PROGRAM ELEMENT NUMBER 6. ...»
Opponents of imposing the remote split operations model on the Army point to unit cohesion and mission awareness as primary reasons for retaining the in-theater operations construct. Ground commanders‟ fears that remote operations will not provide the same degree of dedicated support are based on experiences of support being cut short by Air Force UASs. In fact, officials at an Army Aviation Association of America conference stated that, “Air Force surveillance aircraft cannot be counted on in the heat of battle.”32 Much of this debate is based on the Air Force‟s centralized C2 model and how the air tasking order prioritizes missions among competing interests.
There is merit to the notion that trust, kinship, and continuity afforded by Army UAS operators in-theater are beneficial. However, it can be argued that the perceived benefits are outweighed by the advantages of having significantly more platforms and coverage, as provided by the Air Force model. Also, in some cases, other operational considerations will prevent UAS operators and ground forces from working closely on a daily basis. For instance, runway requirements for the Army‟s newest UAS, the MQ-1C ER/MP Sky Warrior, will be a determining factor for where UAS operators live and work, and may remove them from the vicinity of supported ground forces.33 Much of the Army‟s position on organic UAS control is based on trusting the operators and understanding the tactical situation. These issues could be mitigated with the right combination of leadership, decentralized C2, ground commanders‟ perspective in the CAOC, and remote split operations. In the case of organic UAS operators, the overwhelming advantages of providing UAS capabilities to a larger pool of users should trump the desire to remain in the field with the unit.
32. Stew Magnuson, “Army to Air Force: We Won‟t Give Up Our Surveillance Aircraft,” National Defense Magazine, February 2010, http://www.nationaldefensemagazine.org/archive/ (accessed 4 April 2010).
33. Burdine, “The Army's „Organic‟ Unmanned Aircraft Systems,” 97.
OPERATORS: PILOTS OR ENLISTED?
Differences between the services over C2 doctrine, operations locations, and the role airpower should play also lead to differences over who should operate UASs. Until recently, the Air Force has insisted on using rated pilots to operate its unmanned aircraft systems.
This policy initially stemmed from the safety records of early UASs. Since beginning the Predator program in 1994, the Air Force‟s cumulative mishap rate has been half that of the Army‟s Hunter UASs, and less than one-tenth of the Army‟s Shadow UASs.34 As former Air Force Chief of Staff General John Jumper explained, “The original notion of using pilots was because of the Army experience [with UASs].... If you treat it like an airplane, it will act like an airplane.... That‟s why we insisted on pilots."35 Air Force culture also plays a large role in the belief that pilots are best suited to control UASs. This notion is based on the idea of “airmindedness,” described in Air Force doctrine as a “perspective... [that] reflects the range, speed, and capabilities of aerospace forces, as well as threats and survival imperatives unique to Airmen.”36 In early 2009 the Air Force began to show signs of breaking this cultural barrier by experimenting with non-rated officers controlling UASs. This “beta” program has graduated its first operators and put them to work using remote split operations, signaling a positive change to UAS operations while striving to meet the demand for operators.
Army unmanned aircraft systems, on the other hand, are operated by soldiers in the field. This approach mirrors the Army‟s perspective that aviation's primary mission is to support ground operations. Army Aviation Doctrine states, “Aviation is comprised of
34. U.S. Department of Defense, Unmanned Systems Roadmap 2009-2034 (Washington, DC: Office of the Secretary of Defense, 6 April 2009), 93.
35. Houston R. Cantwell, “Operators of Air Force Unmanned Aircraft Systems: Breaking Paradigms,” Air & Space Power Journal 23, no. 2 (Summer 2009): 68.
36. AFDD 2, Operations and Organization, 2.
soldiers, not airmen, and its battlefield leverage is achieved through a combination of reconnaissance, mobility, and firepower that is unprecedented in land warfare.”37 The Army‟s UAS strategy supports this view through the Soldier/Operator, a distinct UAS career path that includes Federal Aviation Administration ground school, intelligence operations, and simulation and flight training.38 To aid safe and effective UAS control, the Army has incorporated point-and-click interfaces, and automated takeoff and landing technologies in its UASs.39 These advanced technologies greatly reduce the need for the stick-and-rudder skills of rated pilots.
The different views on UAS operators—officer or enlisted, rated or non-rated—falls under the services‟ role to organize, train, and equip, but also has implications for joint doctrine. The missions and tasks of UAS operators will change across the range of military operations, but the demand for ISR will remain. Likewise, joint UAS doctrine needs to be adaptable along the range of military operations. For instance, in a conventional fight against an adversary that poses an air threat, it may be preferable to have more rated pilots controlling UASs against other aircraft, enemy UASs, or ground targets. However, in Iraq and Afghanistan, insurgents pose little air threat and, with General McChrystal‟s limit on airstrikes, the primary mission for UASs has become ISR. These UAS missions require level flight, persistence, and an awareness of intelligence operations that do not necessarily require experienced airmen or piloting skills.
37. U.S. Army, Army Aviation Doctrine, FM 1-100 (Washington, DC: Headquarters Department of the Army, 21 February 1997), 1-3.
38. Stephen Mundt, “Statement,” House Armed Services Committee, US Army Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Program, 109th Cong., 2nd sess., 2006, http://www.globalsecurity.org/intell/library/congress/2006_hr/060406mundt.pdf (accessed 15 March 2010).
39. M.L. Cummings, “Of Shadows and White Scarves,” C4ISR Journal, 1 August 2008, http://www.c4isrjournal.com/ (accessed 26 February 2010).
The real difference between Air Force and Army UAS operators is a matter of service culture. The services naturally want their frontline warriors in the fight. In the Air Force, pilots are at the “pointy end of the spear,” whereas for the Army, it is the combat soldier.
The services‟ views of airpower also color the argument. The Army sees airpower as a force multiplier for ground forces, while the Air Force sees it as a theater-level asset capable of shaping the battlefield. The proper perspective depends on the nature of the conflict and where it falls on the range of military operations, but, in counterinsurgency operations, the soldier is the key to success.
For some, integrating UASs with other manned and unmanned aircraft dictates a highly trained pilot with an airman‟s perspective. Joint doctrine recognizes that airspace deconfliction and integration are crucial considerations that “increase combat effectiveness by promoting the safe, efficient, and flexible use of airspace.”40 The prevalence of UASs in a joint theater certainly adds complexity to the problem, but the answer does not have to be rated pilots controlling unmanned aircraft systems. Instead, a mix of pilots, non-rated officers with more extensive flying training, and enlisted operators could meet the tasks and adjust control methods according to the situation. The same technology that allows launch and recovery elements to pass control to operators at stateside RSO sites could also allow transition from inexperienced enlisted operators to more experienced rated pilots. Also, new technologies that allow single operators to control multiple UASs could assist in airspace deconfliction strategies.41 Technologies and joint doctrine should eventually permit pilots to fly UASs through civil airspace, and then pass control to enlisted operators to conduct missions in support of military operations.
40. Chairman, U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Joint Doctrine for Airspace Control in the Combat Zone, JP 3-52 (Washington, DC: CJCS, 30 August 2004), vii.
41. Cummings, “Of Shadows and White Scarves.”
CONCLUSIONGeneral Henry “Hap” Arnold‟s observation over sixty years ago is telling for operations today: “We have just won a war with a lot of heroes flying around in planes....
The next war may be fought by airplanes with no men in them at all.”42 The rapid demand growth for UASs and ISR, plus different perspectives and cultures within the Air Force and Army, has resulted in distinct approaches to providing this crucial capability.
Discussions over whether Army or Air Force doctrine has the “right” answer miss the point. In reality, the right answer depends on many variables and a willingness to reassess particular ways of doing business. As General McChrystal puts it, “We need to think and act very differently to be successful.”43 In the case of counterinsurgency operations, the Air Force‟s centralized C2 processes are too slow and inflexible to meet the ground force‟s needs. Likewise, the Army would see a greater level of support by adjusting its control methodology from a limited, organic model to something akin to the Air Force‟s remote split operations construct. Finally, both services could benefit from reassessing the role of its operators. Air Force pilots may be necessary in certain circumstances, but in most situations, non-rated officers and enlisted operators would perform admirably and give the ground forces the ISR they need to be effective. The lessons and considerations that inform joint doctrine will take on renewed importance as other services and coalition partners expand their use of unmanned systems. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen emphasized this point, and echoed General Arnold‟s sentiment, when he told the
42. Chris R. Chambliss, “MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper Unmanned Aircraft Systems: At a Crossroads” Air & Space Power Journal, Fall 2009, http://www.airpower.au.af.mil/apjinternational/apj-c/ 2009/ fal09/ chambliss.pdf (accessed 31 March 2010).
43. Stanley A. McChrystal, “ISAF Commander‟s Counterinsurgency Guidance.” (Kabul, Afghanistan, 2009): 3.
Senate Armed Services Committee that he is “inclined to believe.... those that see JSF [Joint Strike Fighter] as the last manned fighter.”44
To address the services‟ doctrinal differences and ensure effective and efficient UAS
employment, the DOD should:
Tailor joint and service doctrine to be functional across the range of military operations.
The CAOC should vary its processes and timelines depending on the nature of the enemy and the threat. Major combat operations against a conventional enemy posing an air threat should follow current doctrine. Once joint air forces have established air superiority or transitioned to COIN operations, processes and perspectives should change to reflect a supporting role. In counterinsurgency operations, “ad hoc” support requests from ground units should become the norm rather than the exception.
Maintain unity of command through the JFACC, but decentralize control as much as possible, especially in COIN operations. This requires institutionalizing the Air Force‟s existing Irregular Warfare doctrine that suggests the JFACC may not always have the situational awareness and flexibility to make the best decisions.45 Include decision-capable Army representatives in the combined air operations center (CAOC) during counterinsurgency operations. This would be more than a liaison officer who offers inputs to CAOC staff; the representative should be of sufficient rank to influence CAOC decisions and best represent ground commanders‟ requirements. The Army representative should present the soldier‟s perspective to CAOC staff, and share
44. John T. Bennett, “Deptula: Not Yet For Unmanned, Autonomous Aircraft,” Defense News, 3 December
2009. http://www.defensenews.com/ (accessed 24 February 2010).
45. U.S Air Force, Irregular Warfare, AFDD 2-3 (Washington, DC: Department of the Air Force, 1 August 2007), 9.
the airman‟s perspective with ground commanders. This would instill more trust and confidence between the services and lead to more effective joint operations.
Reassign the Army‟s organic unmanned aircraft systems to the JFACC. Theater-level UASs should fall under the JFACC for unity of command, but during counterinsurgency operations, Army decision makers in the CAOC would ensure a decentralized C2 construct to provide the best support to ground forces. Assigning UASs to divisions, brigades, and battalions, whether deployed or not, is an ineffective and inefficient use of limited resources.
Institute remote split operations for the Army. Ideally, the services would co-locate operations centers to allow more joint and integrated training opportunities and to increase synergy across the entire range of military operations.
AF News. “Officials Discuss Executive Agency for UAVs.” AF News, 15 April 2007.
www.af.mil/news/story.asp?id=123048908 (accessed 24 March 2010).
Air Force Association. “Air Force vs. Army Concepts for UAV Employment.” Air Force Association. http://www.afa.org/grl/UAV_CONOPS.pdf (accessed 4 April 2010).
Baldor, Lolita. “US to Expand Eyes in the Sky Over Afghanistan.” Associated Press Worldstream, 17 December 2009. http://www.lexisnexis.com/ (accessed 2 April 2010).
Bennett, John T. “Deptula: Not Yet For Unmanned, Autonomous Aircraft.” Defense News, 3 December 2009. http://www.defensenews.com/ (accessed 24 February 2010).
Burdine, Travis A. “The Army's „Organic‟ Unmanned Aircraft Systems: An Unhealthy Choice for the Joint Operational Environment.” Air & Space Power Journal 23, no. 2 (Summer 2009): 88-100, 126.
Burg, Gary L. “Asymmetric Air Support.” Air & Space Power Journal 22 no. 4 (Winter 2008): 34-38.
Button, Keith. “Different Courses.” C4ISR Journal, 1 November 2009.
http://www.c4isrjournal.com/ (accessed 22 March 2010).